February 24, 2011

Avalanche at Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake, next door in Yoho National Park, is one of the places you may have explored on your trip to the Rockies.  If you've hiked or snowshoed with us along the shore of the lake, you may remember the  really big open avalanche slope that runs from mountaintop to lake.

For most of the year, it's a pretty benign and peaceful spot.  You can stand at the bottom and look up at a sea of wildflowers in summer or a carpet of smooth snow in winter.  But on February 12, it came alive!

A really big snow slide carried snow and trees out onto the the lake with so much force that the ice fractured into hundreds of pieces.  Thankfully, it happened in the middle of the night.

The locals had never seen anything like it.  Some friends from Field sent us these pictures.

Next summer, it will be interesting to see how the forest in the upper part of the avalanche slope has been transformed!

Slide debris

Broken ice and open water - the lake was busted wide open!

February 15, 2011

Banff inspires new generation of wildlife overpassess

We've been living in Banff long enough to have seen a couple of generations of wildlife overpasses being built. They cost a lot of money, but have been a success in connecting the landscape on either side of the highway for wildlife - in bridging what some conservation groups called "the Berlin Wall for wildlife."  They are not aesthetically pleasing, but they get the job done.

Now, the design competition featured in this Calgary Herald article has proposed new construction techniques that both look more interesting, and, cost less. It's exciting to see! The pictures of various designs included with this article are well worth a moment to look at.

February 4, 2011

Winter for Wolverines

Ski touring today with friends, on a windy bench at treeline, we saw only one set of tracks: wolverine!  They had to have been fairly fresh because we could still see the occasional clear paw print despite what was fast becoming a blizzard.

We've already written one Facebook post about all the wolverine "things" that have recently appeared in our lives -- a book and TV documentary -- and here's another: Wolverine Watch.  Our neighbour, Ben, is one of the lead researchers.  We hope to go out one day with him to help put stinky beavers on the sides of trees, or to check the remote cameras he puts up to capture any animal that investigates.

Ben showed us some incredible shots he's already got.  They should be up on the Wolverine Watch website soon.  Meanwhile, the website is a place for us locals to add our sightings using an interactive map.  I just entered my first one with these tracks today!

Wolverine research is notoriously challenging because of this animal's amazing ability to move with ease in mountainous terrain.  We don't know a lot about wolverines in the Canadian Rockies.  This citizen science and research project should help Banff National Park get a better handle on one of our most elusive predators.